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Crime Fighter Board Appealing for Witnesses about a Firearm Incident

Photograph

By: Jenine Wiedel

Date: May 2005

Source: Janine Wiedel Photolibrary

About the Photographer: Jenine Wiedel is a freelance photographer based in London. She runs the Janine Wiedel photograph library, which stocks a thirty-year collection of over 100,000 documentary pictures on various subjects such as education, leisure, entertainment, medicine, society, and women's issues.

INTRODUCTION

Occasionally, investigators are required to appeal for witnesses, some of whom may be afraid to come forward. In the United Kingdom police post placards containing the name and contact details of the investigating police force, a short description of the incident, and a telephone number witnesses can contact anonymously.

A photograph of one such placard is featured here. It was posted in Brixton about a firearms incident that took place on May 2, 2005, in which shots were fired at a queue of people standing outside a bar.

In this case, the police unit investigating the case was the Brixton metropolitan police, and the appeal for witnesses was made by Crime Stoppers, an international crime fighting board. Since its inception in 1988, calls to Crime Stoppers have resulted in the recovery of over 65 million pounds ($112 million) and more than 84 million pounds of drugs. Calls to the agency result in the arrest of over 20 people each year.

Such methods give people who are reluctant, apathetic, or afraid of retaliation a chance to help solve crimes.

PRIMARY SOURCE

CRIME FIGHTER BOARD APPEALING FOR WITNESSES ABOUT A FIREARM INCIDENT

See primary source image.

SIGNIFICANCE

Witness to a crime can play a vital role in identifying and prosecuting those responsible. Many witnesses fear that if they come forward and provide information on a crime their identity will become known to dangerous criminals, and they or their friends will seek revenge against the witness. To help people overcome this fear, several agencies offer a service that lets people remain anonymous yet divulge crime-related details.

Investigating agencies use a variety of methods to appeal for witnesses. They may reenact a crime and broadcast it on television, publish appeals in the local newspapers, distribute pamphlets, put up notices at prominent locations in towns and cities, or post a placard at the scene of the crime.

In 1976, when Michael Carmen, a university student working at a gas station in Albuquerque, New Mexico, was stabbed to death, police appealed for witnesses unsuccessfully for six weeks before reenacting the scene and broadcasting it on local television. They promised anonymity and a cash reward for anyone who came forward with information. A caller responded immediately, and the police were able to find the killer within seventy-two hours. This breakthrough led to the formation of Crime Stoppers in the United States. The agency has since worked in conjunction with police forces throughout the United States.

In the United Kingdom, Crime Stoppers and other similar agencies use placards to appeal for witnesses, assuring anonymity in every case. Crime Stoppers now operates in 1,000 locations worldwide, including the United States, Britain, Australia, Bahamas, British West Indies, South Africa, and other countries. In most of these countries it uses similar strategies to find witnesses for various crimes.

FURTHER RESOURCES

Web sites

CrimeStoppers. "Solving Crimes"〈http://www.crimestop-pers-uk.org/solving〉 (accessed February 14, 2006).

CrimeStoppers. "Success Stories" 〈http://www.crimestop-pers-uk.org/solving/successstories〉 (accessed February 14, 2006).

Durham Crime Stoppers. "What Is Crime Stoppers?" 〈http://durhamcrimestoppers.tripod.com/what_is_it.htm〉 (accessed February 14, 2006).

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Crime Fighter Board Appealing for Witnesses about a Firearm Incident

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